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We are pleased to welcome a guest blogger today, Paul Cwalina of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. His church, Grace Fellowship, has an amazing community outreach program .
Helping Hands in Hazleton, Pennsylvania
by Paul Cwalina
Two years ago, a member of Grace Fellowship Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, who works as a supervisor at a Wal-Mart distribution center, noticed that the center was donating food almost every week to one charity or another on a consistent basis. He saw an opportunity for the church to serve the needy in the community.
With the help of the church deacons and elders, as well as fellow members of the congregation, the first distribution was planned for the first Saturday of the following month. A handmade sign taped to a tomato stake and held up by two cinderblocks was placed at the side of the road in front of the church letting the community know about the event. We had no idea if it was going to be a one-time thing or a sustainable ministry.
On that first Saturday, food was set aside at the Wal-Mart distribution center and five volunteers with vans and SUV’s met at the church at 6:00am and made the forty minute trek to pick up the food. The vehicles were jammed with as much of the food that each could hold.
Upon returning to the church, about a dozen volunteers unloaded the vehicles and organized the food, in the church’s basement fellowship hall while members of the community began showing up and sitting in the sanctuary upstairs. Food was placed into cardboard boxes and grocery bags and carried upstairs.
There was little in the way of organization those first couple months. People simply lined up in the lobby of the church and volunteers handed them boxes of food. Seventy hurting families were served that day.
Two years later, there is no longer a need for vans, SUV’s or volunteers to pick up the food. A member of Grace Fellowship Church who owns a trucking company, personally picks up the food with his tractor-trailer and brings it to the church. The handmade sign has been replace with a professionally made banner that is placed on the front of the church. The dozen volunteers waiting at the church has grown to number close to fifty volunteers each month, with half of those volunteers coming from Iglesia Kairos, a Spanish-language church that uses Grace Fellowship’s church or their services.
The number of families served has grown, as well. In August of 2015, the Fish & Loaves ministry served just over 300 families. Since then, the number has averaged near 250 each month. They begin arriving as early as 5:30am, even though the doors don’t open until 7:00am and the food isn’t distributed until 9:15.
While they wait, a deacon leads a Bible Study for nearly two dozen attendees in the church’s conference room, while the rest wait patiently in the sanctuary. While they wait, a member of Grace Fellowship Church delivers the Gospel message from the pulpit followed by a Gospel presentation by a member of Iglesia Kairos.
The ministry has recently begun to expand beyond the walls of the church as two members take the extra food each month and prepare meals for a group of homeless individuals who were found living in the woods just outside of the city.
When the last box of food is assembled and distributed, the volunteers tear down tables and boxes, sweep, mop and clean the fellowship hall, leaving just as it was found at 5:30 that morning. Volunteers leave physically exhausted, but spiritually satisfied.
Thank you for sharing this story, Paul. I love reading stories of communities reaching out to those in need-Onisha
Paul Cwalina was born and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania and is the grandson of immigrant coalminers. By day, he is a marketing executive, an economics geek, and a politics junkie.
Citing Ernest Hemingway’s “Farewell to Arms” as the spark that ignited his desire to write, the author is now turning his long-dormant passion and hobby into a way to tell a story to the world.
“I don’t write ‘comfortable’ stories. I want my readers to be affected and to think; to get out of their comfort zones just a bit. The biggest compliment I receive on ‘Dropping Stones’ is that the story stays with a person long after they’ve read it. To me, that says ‘mission accomplished’.”
Paul lives with his wife and children in Drums, Pennsylvania.
You can check out his novels on Amazon
Connect with Paul on Facebook
…and on Twitter: @PKC1963
I met Marianne Sciucco in the virtual world on Face Book. She is an author and to be honest, the lovely blue hydrangeas on her book cover are what lured me into reading her novel, aptly titled, Blue Hydrageas. It is a moving story of a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s. Today she has her own story to share.
I’m writing today as one of the forgotten, one of those left behind in the fog of Alzheimer’s disease that took over someone I loved.
The first time this happened was in the late 1980’s, when, as a 20-something, I didn’t know much about this disease and didn’t understand why Auntie Gilda had to live in a nursing home and didn’t recognize me when I came to call. She was my mother’s oldest sister by 15 years, more like the grandmother I never had than an aunt, who coddled me as a child and expressed great joy when I took the time to visit her as a young adult.
Heartbroken is too weak of a word to describe how I felt when she looked right through me as I took her hands and said hello in the crowded corridor of the dementia ward.
She was not the first aunt to forget me, and not the last, and my story is not unique as I am among the millions of people who have been left behind by parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, and in some cases children who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
This is a disease shrouded in hopelessness, where little can be done to cure, prevent, or stall its progression.
It’s a primary concern of the elderly: Will I get Alzheimer’s? My mother, father, sister, brother, grandmother had it. Am I next?
It’s a worry of those with aging parents: Mom seems forgetful. Is it Alzheimer’s?
When memory problems surface, even simple problems like searching for familiar words, forgetting an acquaintance’s name, misplacing the car keys again, the thought train that maybe it’s Alzheimer’s starts roaring down the tracks.
All of this is usually needless worry as many of these behaviors are normal, natural, and no cause for concern. They could be symptoms of a medical problem unrelated to any dementia. Still, some of us stay up nights worrying: What if it’s Alzheimer’s?
Which is why it’s important to include a memory check as part of your annual physical. Healthcare providers recommend routine screenings for a variety of conditions: hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and cancers such as skin, colorectal, breast and prostate. A memory check is another exam you should do annually, to make sure your cognitive function is intact.
November 1-7 is National Memory Screening Week, and a great time to not only perform this check for yourself but for your loved ones, especially your elders, who may be experiencing cognitive decline. Memory screenings are for those concerned about memory loss or those experiencing warning signs of cognitive decline, whether or not there is a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s. If friends or family are making comments about your mental acuity, a screening may be beneficial, whether you take one at your physician’s office, your local senior center, or at home.
If you’re asking yourself any of the following questions, it’s time for a screening:
Am I becoming more forgetful?
Do I have trouble concentrating?
Do I have difficulty performing familiar tasks?
Do I have trouble recalling words or names in conversation?
Do I sometimes forget where I am or where I am going?
Have family or friends told me that I am repeating questions or repeating myself?
Am I misplacing things more often?
Have I become lost when walking or driving?
Have my family or friends noticed changes in my mood, behavior, personality, or desire to do things?
Early diagnosis is crucial in the treatment of memory impairment, as many conditions are reversible. But without proper medical care, situations can escalate and lead to serious decline or other conditions that may adversely impact one’s health.
Your healthcare provider (physician, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant) can administer a screening test, and many community organizations do so through the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Self-administered at-home tests are another option. These tests take only minutes and may help determine if further investigation is needed. However, these tests should never be a substitute for a professional medical evaluation if one suspects cognitive impairment or decline. Proper medical evaluation of potential memory issues includes a consultation with a physician, a complete physical exam, a thorough review of health history, and diagnostic tests.
At the very least, simple at-home screening tests can open up dialogue, and introduce important discussions about what can happen if dementia or Alzheimer’s strikes, and how individuals prefer to be treated if it does.
Schedule a memory screening test with your healthcare provider this week, or visit Community Memory Screening and Awareness-Raising Education: The Road to Early Detection and Care (AFA C.A.R.E.S.) to find a local screening center in your community.
Some popular memory tests are:
The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE), a 10-15 minute, 4-page, paper and pen test offered by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
The Mini-Cog Test for Alzheimer’s and Dementia, a simple three minute test that is useful in detecting mild cognitive impairment, dementia, or an early stage of Alzheimer’s.
Talking about memory issues and Alzheimer’s can be difficult. One way to open a discussion is through reading. Here are five titles, including my own, that can help start a conversation about memory concerns:
Alzheimer’s Daughter, Jean Lee
On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s, Greg O’Brien
Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia, Vicki Tapia
hat Flowers Remember, Shannon Wiersbitzky
Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, Marianne Sciucco
The Alzheimer’s Association
Visit our Face Book page, Ending the Isolation of Alzheimer’s
About Marianne Sciucco
I’m not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, I dreamed of becoming an author when I grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. I later brought my two passions together and write about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. I grew up near Boston and earned my Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. I spend a lot of time on Cape Cod. I also survived nursing school and when not writing work as a campus nurse at a community college in New York’s Hudson Valley, where I live with my patient and reliable husband and beautiful, brainy daughter. We are ruled by Mr. Chance, a cat we rescued who thinks he rescued us. I’m currently working on a YA novel, “Swim Season,” about the new girl on the team who challenges a longstanding school record, to be released in 2015. A dedicated Swim Mom for ten years, you can find me during swim season at one of many Skyline Conference swim meets cheering for my daughter and her team. 25:00!
My friends know that I enjoy rainy, gloomy days. This morning my friend Regina Puckett posted her daily poem and it is perfect for how I feel about rainy days.
This is The Day God Has Offered
by Regina Puckett
I welcomed in a rainy, disheartening fall day
Even though all it offered were hues of gray
I accepted it’s silent challenge to find the color
Somewhere among its gloomy leaden, pallor
Even though it tries so hard to hide the bliss
There’s joy in the way the rain and earth kiss
There’s hope in the water that soaks the ground
And there’s music in the wind and its rustling sound
I’ll dance today in the mist and with the rain
I’ll playBecause this is the day God has offered me today
Source: This is The Day God Has Offered
A big, untold story: Since last Yom Kippur, millions of Jews have begun searching for the Messiah, and for atonement for their sins. The media isn’t reporting this. But it’s worth examining. Over the past year since the last Day of Atonement, millions of Jews around the world have begun a quest to find the Messiah. At sundown, we begin Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the highest holy day on the Jewish calendar, and one of great Biblical and historic and cultural importance to my people. I so wish I was home with Lynn and our sons in Israel tonight. Instead, I am in the U.S. speaking at a number of events, from Dallas to San Luis Obispo to Washington, D.C. to Toronto. I am speaking about the darkness that is falling in our world. But I am also explaining to people about a fascinating phenomenon that I’m observing. Since last Yom Kippur, millions of Jews have begun a quest to find the Messiah. For reasons I cannot fully explain, Jews are suddenly searching for answers to the deepest and most important questions concerning life and death and God and atonement and eternity, in numbers unprecedented in history. Some are searching through the Hebrew Scriptures for answers. A stunning number are actually reading the New Testament, most for the first time. They are searching on Google for information about the Messiah. They are even watching a new series of videos by Jews who claim to have found the answers. The videos — some of which have gone viral — were produced and posted on a new website called http://www.imetmessiah.com. To me, these are fascinating developments. They certainly aren’t being reported by the media. But they are worth examining. That said, more on all that in a moment. First, a few thoughts about Yom Kippur itself. In the Scriptures, the Israelites were commanded by the Lord to fast and pray and bring their sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem, and then to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness for all the sins they and their nation had committed that year. And the Scriptures were clear: only the sacrifice of a perfect animal — a sacrifice performed with a humble, repentant, sincere heart, and with faith in God’s mercy and grace — could bring about forgiveness of sins. “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11) “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22) But here’s the problem we Jewish people have face since the destruction of the Temple: What does one do to receive atonement in the modern age, without a Temple? How can one make sacrifices, and thus receive forgiveness of sins — and thus the right to enter the holiness of heaven and live with the Lord in heaven forever and ever — without being able to sacrifice a perfect lamb at the Temple in Jerusalem, where the Lord designated all sacrifices to occur? The destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. was a huge blow to Judaism for many reasons, but chief among them because it deprived us of the one place to receive atonement from God. The good news was found in Daniel 9:24-26. The Hebrew prophet Daniel explained to us that: someday the Messiah (or “Anointed One”) would come to us when the Messiah came, his purpose would be “to atone for wickedness” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” the Messiah would then be “cut off and will have nothing” after the Messiah was “cut off,” then Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed Daniel specifically noted that foreign invaders “will come and will destroy the city and the sanctuary” Think about that. Daniel told us something extraordinary — that a coming Messiah would bring atonement for our sins before the Temple would be destroyed. That, in retrospect, makes sense, right? Why would the God of Israel take away the Temple before providing a new way for atonement? Now, add in what the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah explained to us that not only was the Messiah coming to the Jewish people, but that He would bring a “new covenant,” a new and exciting and God-ordained way by which we would have a personal relationship with the Lord our God. The Hebrew Prophet Isaiah gave us still more details about this coming Messiah. He explained that the Messiah would serve as King of the world eventually, but first the Messiah would be our “Suffering Servant.” That is, He would be rejected by the people, would suffer, and then die as our atoning sacrifice. Consider these extraordinary passages from Isaiah 53:
Please continue reading on Joel’s Blog: A big, untold story: Since last Yom Kippur, millions of Jews have begun searching for the Messiah, and for atonement for their sins. The media isn’t reporting this. But it’s worth examining. | Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog
Woo-hoo we have a guest blogger today! We have been trying to convince our friend, Pam to try her hand at blogging ( she is an excellent writer) for years-Onisha
A friend, and a new Florida resident, asked for “storm wisdom and suggestions”….so here goes, my tongue-in-cheek, short version of how to deal with Hurricane Mania in Florida.
Florida Homeowner 101 Tutorial –
9 Steps for a Safe Hurricane Experience
1. “PREP” No matter what is happening around you, try to remain calm until 24 hours before landfall (and have a room reservation inland with a 24-hour free cancellation policy). While remaining calm, it’s ok to pull out the pre-packed Hurricane Prep Kit/Bin/paper sack from underneath the staircase before, or at the 72-Hour mark before landfall. This action is socially acceptable as a Florida resident. New to Florida? You are allowed to use your “call a friend, option, search the Internet, wander around the plywood section at Lowe’s, or look helpless by the flashlights. You are even allowed to worry a little as long as it directs you into a smart action plan.
2. “KEEPING INFORMED” It’s ok to watch local weather folks but remember to breathe deeply between reports/updates. Updates will continue to look differently as the event progresses-lots of times for the good-but you should kinda worry when your outside cat turns up missing (they sense these things) or the weather channel brings on the gray haired experts (who aren’t normally on camera) or they start broadcasting live feeds at the end of your driveway!
3. “FOOD” Check the expiration dates on canned goods (last BIG Florida storm was 10 years ago). Respect Tropical Storms-they are not “an out of the woods” trump card. Power goes out with 45 mph winds too! If you lose power have a pact with your family or friend that everyone crashes at the “house with power”; “Tag-you’re it” agreement. Not really a legal document but you may get a free meal out of it.
4. “SPIRITUAL SPIN” You can remain in denial until the 24-Hr. mark. Still time to pray the storm away at this point. Others may already be praying; it’s time for you to hop on and join them to make sure you are part of the action (this has worked MANY times in Florida). When you finally see where landfall is going to happen, and its somewhere else, God will forgive you if you think/say “Thank God it went somewhere else!”. Just don’t repeat that to your friend who just lost his roof in another state.
5. “PARTY TIME” It’s ok if you have a “cone party” but NOT a Hurricane Party! Cone parties are for watching the shifting of the cone landfall probability maps on TV. You can serve a spaghetti dinner, as they are now referring to the different tracking models as “spaghetti” maps. These predictions come everywhere from the National Weather Center, colleges (from Master Program students??!), Weather Underground (from Underground Atlanta? Or Natchez Under the Hill?), and from the freelance “weatherman” who is tracking the storm from his den while watching football and the Weather Channel updates.
Hurricane Parties are still NOT in vogue in Florida or smart! Give the cops your next of kin’s phone #.
6. “OFFICIAL DISCLAIMER” “Hope for the Best but Prepare for the Worst -just get ready!” Message from the Governor usually happens before or around the 72-Hour mark or whenever they can’t figure out where it’s going.
7. “COMMUNICATION” No! You may not have phones, texting, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc available for crucial updates and calls for help. Figure it out. Your phone may not be able to get you help as you are under rubble or broke down on the road, unless you have great confidence that cell tower #20 is up and running or that your phone battery has juice! Don’t take chances thinking technology (and the Weather Channel app) replaces early preparedness or common sense. Ever heard of batteries, weather radios, and flashlights? Think ancient survival. Call an old person if that’s a reach for you. Also, think,”I’m an idiot” for taking a video outside in 80 mph winds for a FB post.
8. “THE ESSENTIALS” Filling the tub with water is not so you have water if your son’s wife goes into labor (hot water needed for that you know) or to be used for drinking water (is YOUR bathtub really THAT clean?). Tub water does work for flushing the toilet-do I need to spell it out? Young person-YouTube may have a video for you on this simple procedure.
9. “WEAK MOMENTS” Know that you may “chicken out” after holding out until the 24 hour mark….especially if Mother Nature decides to deliver a surprise or two-like making a right hand turn straight into the coast, or slowing down until it’s a monster storm large enough to cover Florida coast to coast on the radar! It’s ok to panic, but only for a moment (you must NOT appear as an unprepared Florida resident a.k.a. stupid). Just pack the dog and cat and RUN if not too late. Try not to ride out the storm in the road gridlock or at the 7-11 where the line to the bathroom is 28 and one wheelchair deep! Also remember your fellow evacuees will not be in a pleasant mood, may be hungry or may be regretting their decision to place their lives in the path of a fickle storm-be prepared for glares, lane blocking, horn blowing and……
In conclusion, there’s not a perfect “10 steps for Hurricane Safety” in this post, just an apology from this humble writer that she couldn’t come up with 10, and a reminder that there is no “perfect, tidy” fool-proof plan. Just go back to Steps 4 and 6 and go by that-take it from this storm veteran and be Safe, Smart, and Senile-no not senile! but you get the idea!
Just be prepared-visit with friends in the grocery store-have a plan and plywood-and know if you live in Florida long enough you will see some kind of storm in your lifetime.
Blessings and in Sincerity, Pam
Norma Garcia Rowe
Suddenly the sounds of gunfire stopped, and the phone started ringing. Outside, a police officer spoke through a bullhorn, “In the bank, in the bank, answer the phone.” Next, we began to hear sounds of things breaking. We couldn’t tell exactly what it was because we were in the vault, but we thought maybe the gunman was trying to get at us. Those moments of wondering what he would do next were very frightening. Certainly, if he got to us he would be in the mood to start shooting hostages!
Later, we found out that the LAPD SWAT- team was creating a diversion by breaking two of the bank windows in the back while an officer crawled, inside a bomb shield, through the front door. The ordeal took about two hours. Finally, the SWAT team got inside the bank and realizing the hostages were shut-up in the vault and being concerned that the gunman or an accomplice might be in there with us, the officer in charge commanded, in a very loud (and frightening) voice, “I want all of you to come out one-by-one and close the door behind you.”
The girl who had been throwing up was so scared that the O. O. asked if he could come out with her. The officer in charge said, “No, Negative!” By then my legs were working again, so when my turn came I stepped out the door and, boy, what I saw scared me more than what I had gone through before. It was a bunch of heavily armed SWAT-team men some down on one knee with the rest standing behind them. All of them were aiming at ME! It was like being in front of a firing squad.
As we came out, our manager, who had been called from his meeting, identified us through a window. When we had all emerged, he hugged me and said, “I knew you were strong enough to handle this.” I was the only one of the girls that wasn’t crying.
They rounded us up in the back of the bank and the officer in charge said, “We are going to send you out now, but you will have to walk past a dead body.” They didn’t know who it was, but we did. I told a SWAT- team member close to me that the bank robber was not in the vault.
After I heard the voice telling me to leave the vault and go into the bank lobby with the robber, I went. He had demanded that two girls go, but I was the only one who did. He didn’t ask for another one. He, instead, came with me to the teller window and told me to put money in bags. Even though he kept telling me to hurry up, I carefully included the “bait” money (marked bills). At one point I saw a small red light flashing, which indicated that the alarm had been activated. I remembered what he had said about blowing someone’s head off, so I tried to conceal the light. I failed, but fortunately he didn’t see me or the light. I then came to the vault-teller’s box, a large one, which required two different keys. I couldn’t open that one, and by then he was making me very nervous so I called to the Operations Officer to come out from the vault and open it for me. He grudgingly came and got it open but now he had to join us in filling the bags. I was toward the front of the building when I glanced up to see a police officer looking in the window. He was wearing a motorcycle helmet. Oh, good, I thought. The police are here so now we are safe.
I looked back at the thief and at that very instant he was firing at the officer. Up until that moment I had thought that maybe the gun wasn’t loaded but when I saw a flare come from the weapon, the hope of an unloaded gun vanished! My first instinct was to run toward the police officer, so I could be out of danger, but I discarded that idea thinking the guy could easily shoot me in the back. I couldn’t stay where I was, in the middle of gunfire, but if I ran toward the back of the building to join the others I had to pass him and he could easily grab me to use as a hostage. Again, something inside of me was assuring me that I could run by him and he wouldn’t grab me. I did.
As I ran back, the O.O. who had ducked behind a desk, kept yelling, “Get down, get down!” I finally ducked behind another desk but he said, “not there, here.” He wanted me where he was because it was closer to the vault, but once I hit the floor I couldn’t stand on my own two feet again. It was like that “shield,” that “armor” I had felt before, had lifted, so he stretched out his arm and I stretched out mine and he grabbed my hand and pulled me across the floor and we got on our feet to run into the vault to barricade ourselves but my legs wouldn’t support me. I was nicknamed “rubber legs” after that. One of our customers, a retired bank manager, saw what was happening and came out and helped the O. O. lift me off the floor and drag me into the vault with them. We closed the door, and barricaded it with a metal cabinet nearby.